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Essential Albums

Generoso “Tojo” Jiménez: Trombón Majadero

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This 2007 reissue of two classic albums from the inimitable Cuban trombonist Generoso “Tojo” Jiménez bookends five years between 1969 and 1965. Entitled Trombón Majadero after his 1965 recording of the same name, the recording also begins with the twelve songs from that album and then goes back in time to end with another ten songs from his 1960 classic Ritmo album. One is not sure why this compilation is produced this way, but in the ultimate analysis it has little effect on the listening experience; the music being uniformly well-recorded and – equally – a joy to listen to. It is also an apt way to remember the Cuban musician who enjoyed a mighty career as a trombonist, arranger and bandleader who brought his prodigious gifts to Beny Moré’s Banda Gigante and is also heard in the legendary bands of almost every great Cuban leader from Bebo Valdés and Cachao to Gloria Estefan; an appearance that crowned his illustrious career shortly before he passed away in Miami.

The music – simple melodies that turn diabolically complex in the short time they are played thanks to some brilliant arrangements and breathtaking soloing – has the ingenious hallmarks of the great trombonist; the textures and turns of phrase are all there, as is the expressive economy and bursting invention. With two ensembles packed, end to end, with heavy-weights such as Guillermo Barreto, Cachao and others, Generoso “Tojo” Jiménez and his musicians dispatch these works with brisk clarity, getting down to business with memorable songs such as “Jaky Ky” on Trombón Majadero and “Señorita Luna” on the album Ritmo, the former, a typical Cuban “descarga” and the latter a marvellous “rumba”, both of which are presented as though they are incredible musical dialogues in subtly varied hues.

Meanwhile on all of the material the bandleader and trombonist leads us into the bright sunlight of Afro-Cuban music, always keeping us in an effervescent realm as he and his outstanding ensembles deliver the music with an incomparable majesty that came to be associated with the master-musician throughout his life. Whether playing the melodic line or improvising when his music called for it, Generoso “Tojo” Jiménez paced the music in a masterful fashion, his articulation always pellucid and his touch often poetically suggestive.

Throughout the recording he engages other musicians – either solo or in ensemble – to raise the level of their art so that they divest music of its hackneyed associations and raise whatever they play to a higher, enigmatic level. Always this music comes at us in tempestuous waves framed by the masterful playing of a battery of percussionists who hammer out breathtaking tattoos to the rhythm of various classic Afro-Latin dance forms, and in the case of the music of Ritmo (tracks 13 to 23), the rhythms are driven by the mastery of Guillermo Barreto on drums and Cachao on contrabass. One could hardly have asked for a better document to remember the great Generoso “Tojo” Jiménez by.

Track list – Trombón Majadero 1: El Trombón Majadero; 2: Descarga Solfeando; 3: Jaky Ky; 4: La Rosa Roja; 5: Las Pilanderas; 6: Ya No Me Quieres; 7: Garabato; 8: El Torrente; 9: La Vieja Rosa; 10: Una, Dos Y Tres; 11: Llegaron Del Otro Mundo; 12: El Contrabajo Fantasma; Ritmo 13: La Múcura; 14: A La Bahía De Manzanillo; 15: Cachita; 16: Sueño De Amor; 17: La Bamba; 18: Señorita Luna; 19: Come Prima; 20: Maracaibo Oriental; 21: El Tambor De La Alegría; 22: La Bella Cubana; 23: Besitos De Coco

Personnel – Tracks 1 – 12 – Trombón Majadero – José “El Fiñe” Gudin: trumpet; Adalberto “Trompetica” Lara: trumpet; Pedro Jiménez: trumpet; Juan González trumpet; Generoso Jiménez: trombone; Leopoldo “Pucho” Jimenez: trombone; Modesto Echarte: trombone; Luis “El Pibe” González: trombone; José Manuel Valdés Orovio: trombone; Celso Gómez: saxophone; Juan Vásquez: saxophone; Daniel Rojas: saxophone; Narciso Espinosa: saxophone; Armando Verdscia: saxophone; Héctor Alejo: piano; Orlando “Papito” Hernández: double bass; Horacio González: drums; Filiberto Sanchez: percussion; René Estrada: percussion; Eduardo Vitches: percussion; the Bermúdez Brothers: vocals; Tracks 13 – 23 – Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros: trumpet; Armando Armenteros: trumpet; Tracks 13 – 23 – Ritmo – José “El Fine” Gudin: trumpet; Pedro Jiménez: trumpet; Generoso Jiménez: trombone; Antonio Linares: trombone; Luis “El Pibe” González: trombone; Modesto Echarte: trombone; Enemilio Jiménez: saxophone; Homero Betancourt: saxophone; Emilio Penalver: saxophone; Rolando Sánchez: saxophone; Diego Loredo: saxophone; Hector Alejo: piano; Israel “Cachao” López: double bass; Guillermo Barreto: drums; Oscar Valdés: percussion; Clemento “Chicho” Piquero: percussion; Armando Thomas: percussion

Released – Trombón Majadero: (Egrem, 1965); Ritmo: (Kubaney, 1969); this release: Malanga Music, 2007
Runtime – 1:14:51

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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Essential Albums

Azymuth: Telecommunications

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This album, Telecommunications, is one of the most iconic recordings by Azymuth, the ineffably funky Brasilian trio. When it was released – on the Milestone label in 1982 – it became a monumental hit, propelling the group, it went Gold and exploded into the Top 10 in the British Charts, soaring heavenward in popularity all over Europe too.

It’s not hard to understand the extraordinary popularity of Azymuth. First and foremost has to be the unmatched funkiness of all the musicians who made up the original trio: keyboards superstar, vocalist and percussionist José Roberto Bertrami, who sadly passed away on July 8th 1012, Ivan Mamão Conti, who just has to be considered one of the most funky drummers since Zigaboo Modeliste, [who practically invented funk drumming as one of the illustrious members of the iconic New Orleans group The Meters], and bassist Alex Malherios whose rumble and roar made for the glue [together with Mamão] that solidified the rhythmic edifice of the trio, while the soloist [particularly, Bertrami] launched himself on his mighty solo flights.

Azymuth: Telecommunications
Azymuth: Telecommunications

It may have been the syncopation of choro that carried over into Brasili’s most iconic urban music and dance forms – samba, a versatile rhythm that can assume many forms. Heated up, with a shouted call-and-response verse backed by literally thousands of samba-school drums on parade, it becomes samba de enredo [the mass Carnival music that is famous the world over]. But what happens when you take the vocals out of the musical equation, funk up the rhythm, add a rumbling electric bass guitar and jazz up the rippling Brasilian percussion?

That’s when you get the funkiest music that became the clarion call of Brasilian funk music ensembles, of which Azymuth was probably the most famous, plying its stock-in-trade at all the major jazz festivals – from the Americas to Europe – Monterey to Montreux and way beyond.  The music on this seminal album, Telecommunications is characteristic of Azymuth at its very best. The repertoire came at a time when this heavyweight trio had reached the apogee of the musical style that continues to be a niche. A style that it had carved out for itself, with an eclectic, jazzy mix of Brasilian rhythms upon which were overlaid dallying soli by Mr Bertrami and Mamão, together with the rumbling bass of Mr Malherios.

Azymuth Trio
Azymuth Trio

Telecommunications’ opener “Estreito de Taruma” features a filing solo by the great Brasilian guitarist Helio Delmirio. The warm sonority, clean technique and penchant for spare ornamentation in his playing made him a guitarist like none other to come out of the raging flood of guitarists that cascaded out of the ocean of Brasilian music. The music that Mr Delmirio sculpted, from the steel strings at his fingertips, made the musical notes fly off the paper. His lines floated askance, oblique to the not so predictable keyboard playing by Mr Bertrami.

Throughout the two sides of this vinyl –superbly remastered by George Horn, by the way– we find music that is a testament to the musicians’ [and composers’] boundless invention. This music is replete with a wide expressive range and technical challenges, not to mention the fact that once all of the musicians have had their say, a musical structure is constructed that defies logic, convention and other well-worn stylistic hooks. So monumental is the music’s cachet. Mr Bertrami’s “Last Summer in Rio” and the wistful finale – “The House I Lived In” [together with its “Prelude” – as a finale, no less] is typical of the brooding, tumbling groove that Azymuth created for itself – a sound so unique among [any] other musicians from the 1970’s onward, is yet to be imitated, copied or otherwise reproduced by Brasilian artists other than Azymuth.

YouTube Playlist

Tracks – Side A – 1: Estreito de Taruma; 2: What Price Samba [Quanta Vale um Samba]; 3: Country Road [Chão de Terra]; 4: May I Have This Dance? [Concede me Esto Dança?]. Side B – 1: Nothing Will Be As It Was [Nada Sera Como Antes]; 2: Last Summer in Rio; 3: The House I Lived In [A Casa em Que Vivi]; Prelude

Musicians – José Roberto Bertrami: organ [Side A 1, 4; Side B 1-3], keyboards [Side A 2, 4; Side B 1, 2], vocoder [Side A 3, 4], vocal [Side A 2] and percussion [Side A 1, 4; Side B 1]; Alex Malherios: electric bass [Side A 1, 4; Side B 2], fretless bass [Side A 2, 3; Side B 2]; bass guitar [Side A 4], and acoustic guitar [Side A 3]; Ivan Mamão Conti: drums [Side A 1, 2, 4; Side B 1, 2] and percussion [Side A 1, 3]; Special Guests – Helio Delmirio:  electric guitar [Aide A 1; Side B 2]; Aleuda: percussion [Side A 3, 4; Side B 1]; Dotô: repique [Side A 2]; Cidinho: percussion [Side B 2]

Released – 1982
Remastered and Released (vinyl) – 2022
Label – Milestone [1982]
Jazz Dispensary – [2022]
Runtime – Side A 19:21 Side B 21:43  

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